What a terrible way to start Season 2 (after a rather sluggish first season finale)! I can’t imagine who thought that it could be a good idea to start with this dumb episode, nothing works in it! The good news is that things can only get better from now on…
In The 37’s, the USS Voyager finds… yes, the 1930s Ford van you see reproduced in the image. It floats in space complete with dust and manure, immune to the glacial temperatures typical of the place (which seems to reach -270 degrees Celsius, at least here in the Alpha quadrant). Even if you don’t want to think about the minimal chances of running into such a vehicle adrift in space, Tom Paris manages to start its engine! 400 years in space but the battery is in excellent conditions, they built things to last back in the day! And then the radio is switched on and an SOS is picked up from a planet thousands and thousands of miles away… I swear I’m not making it up, it’s really like that. Nothing works in this episode.
But even passing over this absolutely incongruent plot, here’s a planet with some people from the 1937’s Earth in cryogenic stasis. Once they wake up, we get the usual stuff that happens in cases like this (for example, think of The Neutral Zone, Season 1 of The Next Generation). And then the Voyager crew discover a settlement of 100,000 humans (led by a character played by veteran actor John Rubinstein), the descendants of 300 people kidnapped by aliens, the Briori, 400 years earlier and who managed to rebel and created a civilization. So, it seems that these Briori have, or at least had, a technology capable of transporting people and vehicles from one quadrant of the Galaxy to another! Apparently, though, no one thinks about this, Janeway doesn’t even ask Neelix a question like “But… don’t you know anything about the Briori?“. Nothing at all, the information gets lost immediately (I’m ready to apologize if the topic comes up during the remainder of the season, of course!).
And what about the fact that one of the awakened humans is the famous Amelia Earhart (played by Sharon Lawrence), a famous aviator who disappeared during a transatlantic flight? It’s not connected to anything remotely interesting in the episode. It almost looks like a TOS episode, in fact it reminded me a lot of Miri, the eighth episode of the first season of The Original Series, but only due to the unwarranted and gratuitous use of elements from XX century Earth serving no purpose at all.
I found the climax of the episode as silly as the rest of it. The question is: how many of the crew will decide to stay on this lost planet in the Delta quadrant instead of continuing the journey home? Of course the answer can be easily predicted, but Janeway and Chakotay worry a lot, the music becomes intense and dramatic…. and in the end the only ones left are the humans awakened from cryogenic sleep. So long, Amelia Earhart. And so long to this episode, I’ll forget it soon enough! Ciao!
PS: why did Voyager land on the planet? Was it just to show the special effect of the landing gear? Among other things, it seemed a bit ridiculous that the whole ship could stand on those two tiny little landing struts…
PPS: I’ve read that this episode was produced during the first season, and maybe that’s why Season 2 began with it. I still think it was a mistake, a misstep, but I’m sure the quality of the stories will improve!
PPS: The Delta Flyers podcast shoutout: I completely agree with Robert Duncan McNeill who highlighted the mediocrity of this episode, despite having a positive memory about working on it as an actor. I found this podcast episode particularly funny: among the thousand things that McNeill and Wang said, I appreciated this reference to a YouTube video ranking the various characters according to the time spent on the screen. Tom Paris isn’t a winner, let me tell you that! And then, both co-hosts have promised succulent stories for future episodes: Wang about his problems with the production that almost got him fired, and McNeill about his fight with James L. Conway, director of The 37’s, which occurred while working on a later episode!
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